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How maternity unit bullies ‘put babies at risk’: Four in ten clinics fail to meet safety standards

How maternity unit bullies ‘put babies at risk’: Four in ten clinics fail to meet safety standards, report reveals

  • Care Quality Commission warns of a hostile working environment in hospitals  
  • 41% of maternity services rated as either inadequate or needing improvement  
  • Today’s report highlights a culture of ‘cover-ups when things went wrong’ 


Four in ten maternity units are putting mothers and babies at risk by failing to meet basic safety standards, a damning report reveals today.

The Care Quality Commission warns of a hostile working environment in some hospitals because of a ‘culture of bullying’.

It reveals that 41 per cent of maternity services are rated as either inadequate or requiring improvement.

The report finds that pregnant women are still being let down by the NHS despite pressure to reform following a series of high-profile scandals, including at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals

Based on nine inspections of hospitals from March to June, today’s report highlights a culture of ‘cover-ups when things went wrong’. 

It says this means the deaths of some mothers have not been investigated as serious incidents.

Citing a ‘culture of bullying’ the report adds: ‘In one service a nurse mistook an inspector, who was dressed in scrubs, for a member of staff and shouted at them to answer the phone.’

The report finds that pregnant women are still being let down by the NHS despite pressure to reform following a series of high-profile scandals, including at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals.

It says the ‘pace of progress has been too slow’ and that women have not been ‘sufficiently prioritised to help prevent future tragedies from occurring’. The authors also warn that death rates are significantly higher among women and babies from black and minority ethnic groups.

They say black women are 30 per cent more likely to be readmitted to hospital in the six weeks after giving birth.

Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: ‘Addressing inequalities and tailoring maternity services to best meet the needs of the local population is a critical area for action and something that good services are prioritising.

‘Safe, high-quality maternity care should be the minimum expectation for all women and babies, and it’s what staff working in maternity services across the country want to deliver. We have seen good progress in some services, but we must now accelerate the pace of change across all services to prevent future tragedies from occurring and ensure that women and babies get consistently safe care every time.’

Based on nine inspections of hospitals from March to June, today¿s report highlights a culture of ¿cover-ups when things went wrong¿

Based on nine inspections of hospitals from March to June, today’s report highlights a culture of ‘cover-ups when things went wrong’

James Titcombe, a patient safety and policy consultant for Baby Lifeline and whose baby son died after midwives missed chances to spot a serious infection at Furness General Hospital in 2008, said the report highlighted concerns over leadership, oversight of risk, teamwork and culture. 

He added: ‘Avoidable harm during childbirth can have a truly devastating and life-changing impact on families and staff, it’s crucial that there is now a commitment from everyone involved in delivering maternity care to come together with a shared purpose and goal.

‘We [must] work together to address the issues today’s report highlights with a renewed sense of urgency and pace.’

An inquiry is under way into what is feared to be the UK’s biggest maternity scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.

Led by Donna Ockenden, the probe is looking at more than 1,800 serious cases of potential medical negligence.

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